Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize don’t always deserve it

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The five Nobel Prizes which are awarded annually to those who have made great strides in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace were the product of founder Alfred Nobel’s final wishes. The arms manufacturer, best known for the creation and production of dynamite, dictated that his large fortune would be used to set up a series of prizes for achievement in these categories upon his death. 

The most controversial choices are always for the Peace Prize. Innovation in physics and chemistry is easier to quantify. “Peace” remains hard to define in a world such as ours. 

Some atrocious choices haunt the list of Peace Prize winners. Henry Kissinger, for example, received the prize in 1973 for his work on a Vietnam ceasefire. Those who criticize this choice claim that Kissinger is the architect of crimes against humanity in half a dozen countries. 

Upon receiving his award in 2009, President Barack Obama claimed he viewed the choice as a “call to action”. There I was, under the false impression that prizes are given for doing something rather than assuming that it will motivate someone to action. He was even brave enough to acknowledge that giving the award to a leader whose country was fighting two wars seemed odd. 

My dissatisfaction is completely bipartisan. The prize was intended to be awarded to an individual who worked for peace between nations and the reduction of standing armies. These choices hardly made the cut. 

Another group that has historically made the cut with no justification are organizations. I’m talking about the UN World Food Programme (last year’s winner) alongside the European Union.The original mandate by the founder of the prize specified that it should be given to individuals. Our modern sensibilities, if we can call them that, should not allow us to act like changing dying wishes is a noble act. If you want to award a peace prize to an organization, make a new prize. 

I feel that awarding a peace prize to someone bogged down in partisan politics when they’re not busy doing good work might also be a misstep. This year, those figures would be Stacey Abrams and Jared Kushner. It’s  difficult to believe that Stacey Abrams is fully and completely committed to voting rights activism when she was trying to become Joe Biden’s running mate. It’s even more difficult when she takes money from Michael Bloomberg and then fails to endorse him. Jared Kushner is an equally inhospitable choice. The Abraham Accords were a productive step towards peace in the Middle East. Changing the location of the American embassy in Israel was not. 

My first choice this year is Alexei Navalny. I’ve written about the Russian opposition leader before and the passage of time has only made my admiration for him grow. If you want to give the Peace Prize to someone working to bring freedom, democracy and peace to millions you pick Alexei Navalny. Through confronting poison gas attacks, prison, hunger strikes and being forced to watch 8 hours of state television a day he has remained an ally to Russian democracy. That’s the kind of person who should win a Nobel Prize.

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